Sunday, November 29, 2015

Winter 2015 Updates, and Long Term Future Plans

Salutations and happy holidays to anyone that may be reading this.  Been a while since I wrote an update, so here we go.  

As I expressed in other posts and vlogs previously, how often I make content is going to change due to a variety of factors.  Some of which I will spare you, but the most relevant factor is that I've accomplished a lot of my hiking goals in and around where I live.  I really wanted to explore and take advantage of the great network of trails here in south-west Sweden, and after starting on Sweden's E1 trails almost two years ago, I've managed to section hike all the way into a more isolated part of central Sweden.  I only have about 120-150km left of the E1 trails for me to complete, which I plan on doing in spring or summer 2016, and hopefully with some friends and family.  Most of my hiking adventures are solo, so it will be a nice change of pace, though I do get out on my fair share of weekend trips with friends closer to home.

So in between my more involved trips--which in the future are beginning to resemble proper adventures again rather than more leisurely backpacking trips close to home--what I've done to scratch my outdoors itch is to return to familiar trails and woods nearby.  I've not documented them on my blog because, well, I thought it would not really be of interest to my readers.  I've already documented a lot of these trails anyhow.  Most of the trips since my last E1 hike have been more appropriate to document on my private Facebook page for friends and family than here.  So I have been getting out there, I am just waiting to document more relevant and interesting adventures and reviews.

So what is in the works, then?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Return to Bohusleden: Section Hike of Parts of Stages 9-7 Plus Side Trails


 
There I lay in bed daydreaming in the middle of the week of what to do with the coming free weekend, as I often do.  Various brainstorms cross my mind, all of them having to do in one way or another getting outside into the woods.  I'm leaning towards a more bushwhacking type trip that is more focused on picking wild edible mushrooms, seeing that it's supposed to be high season for a lot of yummy mushrooms (though this year has been rather so-so thus far).  But then again, there are several stages on trails that are not too far away from where I live that have been beckoning me to return.  I couldn't make up my mind, but I did decide to call my good friend Tomas, who is one of my more reliable friends when it comes to getting out into the wild.

I go back to thinking about other things I have to do during the week, when several minutes later, what do you know--Tomas calls me.  And he immediately suggests we go backpacking this weekend without me having to say anything.  I love moments like this.  So we debate the various options, until we reach a complication: hunting season.  Moose season began recently, and that kind of killed (no pun intended) the idea of going on any type of bushwhacking or off-trail type trip in the woods where there is hunting going on.  One does not want to get shot picking mushrooms, after all.  Tomas has an insightful observation, however: no hunting allowed on nature reserves.  This pretty much made up my mind of where to go, and I told Tomas to trust me, I know a great place to go then.

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Top 5 Favorite Newer Pieces of Gear: Follow-up Reviews and Reflections



Usual disclaimer: I am still not sponsored or get free gear.  Just some gear I love that I bought myself.

Another high season of wilderness backpacking is coming to a close for me.  Sure I get out every month of the year, if anything on day trips and the occasional overnighter, but I tend to get out more from generally May to September.  This time of year is also when I tend to take my longer section hikes.  Not that I don't like getting out during those other months!  A lot of it has to do with convenient vacation periods over the summer, and I find it's also easier to take last minute type trips when the weather is warmer.  

Give me about 10 minutes to change into my hiking outfit and throw my gear into my pack, and I can be ready to hit the trail on a sunny summer weekend.  Speaking of sunny, here's a few random pictures from my most recent section hike, which was last week.



Monday, August 10, 2015

Dealing With Hard Times While Backpacking


As I have mentioned before, and often tell new/younger backpackers: it's not all sunny days, great views, and smelling wild flowers while out in nature.  Like any challenging hobby/lifestyle, the rewards come with a price, and sometimes this means enduring some hard times out there so that you can enjoy nature overall.  However if you are a new or less experienced backpacker, don't let any of the hard times get you down!  They are part of the experience, and you become a better person for dealing with hard times and the challenges they present.

The mountain ahead of you may look intimidating, but not when you take it one step at a time.  And while you're hiking up the mountain, yeah it's probably going to be tough.  You're probably going to sweat, your legs will get sore, you might even slip and skin your shin.  And it might even rain or snow while you are going up that damn mountain, and even with good rain gear, at the very least your shoes and socks are going to get soaked, and the rest of you will be a bit soggy from sweat if anything.

But then you get to the top of that damn mountain, and it will be worth it. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

My Summer 2015 Full Skin Out Gear (Base Pack + Clothing Worn) Breakdown

I recently uploaded a video where I discuss and show off all my gear and clothing for the rest of the summer (and perhaps early fall).  I have a few section hikes coming up that I am looking forward to, and this will be the set up I will take on them, but of course nothing is set in stone and things can change based on any given circumstances.  But I have a feeling that I won't change anything, as the weather has been pretty consistent as of late, and this set up is pretty flexible and can handle a wide range of conditions and temperatures.  As I said in the video, I could push it down to perhaps lows of 8-9C / 46-48F and be just fine, and from lows of 11C / 52F and up I'm very comfortable.

So first off, if you haven't seen the video yet, here it is:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Mora to Sälen on Vasaloppsleden

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Yet another long (but necessary) intro to this trail guide.  So please read carefully if you plan on hiking this trail, or just skip below to the pictures and report.

Vasaloppsleden is a 90km trail that follows a path similar to that of the Vasaloppet, which is the oldest, longest, and most popular cross-country ski race in the world.  The trail does not have an official website in English (at least that I could find), but there is plenty of helpful information on the area, transportation, events, etc. on the official website of the various races (ski, bike, running) that take place there.  All of the races as well as the hiking trail go from Sälen to Mora, however if you are hiking the E1 trails northbound (as I was) you will be walking from Mora to Sälen.

There are various maps that you can buy of the area and the trail.  The one I settled on is made by Calazo, and is generally quite a good map.  There are three marked trails (for skis, bikes, and hiking) in the area that follow similar paths, but at times each trail will take its own route.  Thus you can choose to follow the ski or bike trails at times while you are hiking, which is what we (my wife and I) did on our hike.  Though in general I would recommend to mostly stick to the hiking trail, which caters more towards hikers, naturally.

Public transportation to Mora is not much of an issue, with regular trains and buses passing through the town.  However getting to or out of the village of Sälen is more challenging.  There are only a handful of buses that go in and out of the small village (population 650!), and you have to pay cash for tickets on the bus themselves unless you buy one of the local transportation cards.  Sälen comes to life in the winter, when it hosts the starting point of the famous ski race, and when ski tourist pour in to ski in the surrounding mountains.  But other parts of the year (like summer, when we were there) the village is well... pretty dead.  There are a few shops and places to buy food and such, but everything closes early.  There are several hotels and bed & breakfast places to stay the night, and are a bit on the pricey side.

Going southbound, the next section of the E1 is part of Siljansleden that goes from Mora to Leksand, and you can read my report on that trail here.  Going northbound the E1 trail goes from Sälen to the end of the E1 trails in Sweden at the Norwegian boarder at the lake Grövelsjön, which according to the official Sweden E1 guide:

Along its 160 km, E1 travels on several local trails. All are not well marked, but there are rest shelters and huts. The trails go partly through mountain terrain that places certain requirements on the ability to use a map and compass. 
As the above implies, the end of the Swedish E1 trails presents certain challenges for section and thru-hikers alike.  It is in a pretty isolated location area up in the mountains, so resupplying is going to be difficult or not an option around there.  There are only a few buses a day that can get you back to civilization from Grövelsjön, the closest village being Idre (population 790!), about 50 minutes away by bus.  Mora is a three hour bus ride.

*Update 09/08/2016: I recently completed about half of the last part of the trail, going from Sälen to Mörkret.  You can check out my report on this section here. 

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on to the guide!

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My wife and I hiked Vasaloppsleden together, and overall we really enjoyed this trail.  When I asked my wife to describe it with five adjectives, she said: comfortable, convenient, pretty, well maintained, and very buggy (as in full of bugs--we hiked the trail in the height of bug season here in Sweden, however).  I agree with her assessment, but would add that its beauty is more of a cozy, quaint type of beauty rather than stunning views and vistas--though there are several good views of the surrounding mountains and bodies of water.  

Due to the popularity of this area because of the various races and the tourism attached to them, the trail is exceptionally taken care of.  Well marked, many places to fill up on tap/spring water, eight cabins along with many simple trail shelters, plus several places to buy food and supplies.  While it's possible to hike this entire trail and just sleep in cabins or shelters, of course it's still always a good idea to have your own shelter, because with many people traveling to the area, trail shelters may be full.  However while we were there we only ran into a handful of backpackers (but many cyclists), and locals mentioned that springtime is the high season for hiking.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Father-Son Trips!

A few years ago I took my oldest son on a father-son camping trip, and it was awesome.  I was not as interested in photography back then, so I only took a handful of pictures of this trip, but have since wished that I had taken more and that I had documented it here on my blog rather than Facebook (which I have since more or less quit).  But here are a few pictures of that trip that I manged to dig up:



My youngest son and I have been waiting for the right time to take our own father-son trip, and finally got the chance a few days ago.  And it was just as awesome as my last father-son trip.  Only this time I took more pictures.  Rather than camp out next to a big lake in the woods like last time with my other son, this time the youngest one and I camped out on a coastal island in a small patch of woods near the sea.  Getting to the island was a bit tricky, but definitely worth it--it took a train, a bus, another bus, a ferry, and then a short hike.  The campsite had been scouted by a few close friends of mine, who were camping out on the island for a week.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

All of Cesar's Ultralight Sleep Systems: From 20C to -16C and Everything in Between

Ye Olde Gear Closet

Seeing as I recently finished up my complete breakdown of all of my Ultralight shelters, and I'm also on summer vacation, I figured I should strike while the iron is hot and also write up another breakdown I've wanted to do for a while.  Regular readers will notice a pattern by now of me putting the finishing touches on all of my Ultralight backpacking gear wants/needs for year round use and under nearly all circumstances relevant to me.  My sleep systems have been no different.  So now that I've explored my backpacks and shelters, here is the last of the "Big 3" of backpacking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

All of Cesar's Ultralight Shelter Systems: Full Reviews, Comparisons, and Analyses

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What follows is a long reflection on my choice of fully enclosed backpacking shelters, with a breakdown of specifications, pros/cons, comparisons, applications, etc.  There will be a total of four shelter systems reviewed: two modular systems and two tents.  Please keep in mind that the weights listed reflect my own personal configurations, such as choice of guy lines, stuff sacks, stakes, etc.  There are many different factors that can contribute to a shelter system's total weight.  

If you are interested in seeing what all four of these shelters look like packed up, as well as my usual ramblings, check out the first video in my series of shelter videos:


I had previously written about a few of my shelter combinations, but have since updated some things and wanted a lengthier review of all four of the shelters I own and use.

Also, if you're not familiar with me or my blog, here is some helpful context to keep in mind in regards to the shelters in question:


  • I am a section hiker that goes on trips about once a month all year round, and generally hike 20-30km a day on these trips.
     
  • In addition to my section hikes I also go on the occasional (once a season or so) off-trail trips, mostly to some favorite spots in the woods I am familiar with.
     
  • All my trips are in Scandinavia, mostly Sweden and some in Norway.
     
  • I am 183cm / 6ft tall, and am about 83kg / 183lbs.
     
  • My base weight for each season is usually around 2-3kg / 4.4-6.6lbs in the summer, 3-4kg / 6.6-8.8lbs in the spring/fall, and 4-5kg / 8.8-11lbs in the winter.
      
  • I've been wilderness backpacking, camping, hiking, etc. regularly for about the past 20 years.
      
  • And finally, and as always, I am not sponsored by any gear company, nor do I receive any gear for free for the purpose of review or otherwise.  These are simply the shelters I decided to buy and use for my wilderness backpacking adventures.

On to my big shelter breakdown!

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Introduction



Back in February of this year I made the above admittedly crude flow chart that helps to explain my own personal thought process when it comes to picking a shelter for a given backpacking trip.  Ever since then I have wanted to write up a full breakdown of the shelters I own and use (and hence reference in the flow chart), but in addition to being busy as usual, I was also waiting on a final piece of my shelter puzzle.  That final piece of gear was a net tent, which I finally received last week and have been playing around with in my backyard.  I will hopefully do a quick overnight trip to break it in sometime soon, and plan on taking it along on several section hikes I have planned for this summer and early fall.

Now that I have this piece of gear, I have no intentions to buy any other shelters unless I need to replace something that is damaged or worn out.  Of course this might change, but I doubt I will be buying a new shelter for a while.  This is exactly how I feel about my small collection of backpacks, which I wrote about last summer.  So this review will be somewhat similar to that one, only shelters have more nuances that I think require more elaboration and discussion.  So get yourself a snack and/or a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Leksand to Mora on Siljansleden

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As the trend has been for the past few trip reports, please bare with me for this lengthy introduction for this part of the E1 trail if you intend on actually hiking here.  Otherwise, feel free to skip down to the pretty pictures below.  Due to a few factors this section of trail presents some complications and alternatives that would-be hikers will have to deal with, and a summary I found apt in my last trip report I think is relevant here as well: think of this area as a "choose your own adventure" type experience.  There are several side-trails, short cuts, and alternate routes between the small cities of Leksand and Mora.  But what generally connects these two cites and makes up this portion of the E1 trail is Siljansleden.

Siljansleden is a looping trail that goes around the huge lake Siljan, which is Sweden's 6th biggest lake.  In total this trail is reported to be 340km long, and here is its official website, which is entirely in Swedish.

You can check out a very general map of the entire trail here, but by no means would I recommend using this to navigate a trip here--this is just for context and general understanding of what the trail looks like.  You can order a map from the official website linked above, or buy a copy of Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan number 647 for the Sollerön area (which is what I did).  The 647 map covers most of the trail/route from Leksand to Mora, only leaving out roughly 10km from each end of this journey.

Depending on how and where you choose to hike in this section, the distance between Leksand and Mora can be quite different.  The official E1 guide for Sweden lists the distance as around 70km, which is accurate if you are only sticking to the E1 and don't start from Leksand.  Here are what I see as the three main hiking options one has in hiking Siljansleden from Leksand to Mora:


  • 1.  Stick to the main trail only, taking the side trail to Mora that connects to the next trail of the E1, Vasaloppsleden.  ~85km.
     
  • 2.  Stick to the main trail until the cottage hamlet of Åmberg, then get off the trail and hike north-east to Mora rather than north-west on the main trail.  This is what I chose to do.  ~75km.
     
  • 3.  Stick to the main trail until the side trail that goes to the village of Gesunda, then continue north east on to the large lake island of Sollerön, and then finally turning north west where the island is connected back to the mainland close to Mora.  ~65km.

Traveling southbound from Leksand, the E1 continues on to the small town of Mockfjärd, and you can read my report on that stage here.  Traveling northbound, the trail continues on Vasaloppsleden, and you can read my full report on that trail here. 

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on to the guide!

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Overall hiking this part of Siljansleden was quite a pleasant and rewarding experience, and I would definitely not recommend skipping all or most of it--though there were some challenges and issues that this trail presents.  For one, between the two small cities in question, and aside for a few small exceptions, there is really not much civilization in this area.  So make sure you have enough food and whatever other consumable supplies you might need to cover you.  

Also, while in general the trail is well marked--and I especially liked that there were many signs with distances to the next landmarks--a few spots are not as well marked and/or tricky to navigate.  There is also some tough terrain to hike through, like a few swampy areas and up and down some small mountains.  While there is some road walking, luckily most of it is on nice, grassy, old lumber roads rather than asphalt (though there is a bit of that).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring/Summer Updates 2015

Warmer weather is here, flowers are in bloom, and every day I daydream of getting back out into the woods again.  Thought I would give a quick update on what is in the works and what's going on this summer.

I recently updated the post on my 2nd prototype of a summer bag/winter overbag after testing it out on a section hike recently.  The short of it is that it worked well, but there were a few small improvements I'd like to make, and recently ordered a professionally made version.  I'll be sure to write up a post and probably do a video once I receive this refined and improved version of this project of mine.

I have section hikes planned for both June and July on the E1 Trails, and looks like I am down to the final three big sections of the entire trail!  I am very excited about this, and also excited to try out a few new pieces of gear on these section hikes.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Mockfjärd to Leksand

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Sorry, but some complications and nuances of this section of the E1 require a bit of a longer introduction.  So bare with me if you plan on actually hiking here, or just skip down for the pretty pictures.

The official Swedish E1 information website neglects a lot of details and information on this section, only listing the Gagnefs Pasture Paths as connecting to Siljanleden Trail.  However shortly after traveling past the small town of Mockfjärd going northbound, one will soon find themselves in an area with a whole network of different trails that are in and around the small city of Leksand.

Leksand's commune has a website with information on outdoor life and a lot of these trails, however it is mostly in Swedish.  

Here is a PDF of a map of the Leksand area from the city's site, which is quite helpful.  The map works, but is a bit simplified, so it's not something intended to use for going off-trail/bushwhacking.  The map also does not cover Mockfjärd, but it's only about 10km from there to where the map of Leksand's trails begins.  The map is rather large, so when printing I suggest printing it out as a 9 page poster, though you probably won't need to bring the entire map.

As you can see on the map, there are many different trails in and around the Leksand area--a total of 41 trails are listed!  However many of these trails are small and/or don't connect with the E1 trail.  It's odd that the official E1 site does not include anything about this system of trails.  At any rate, if you only follow the official E1 trail, it passes by Leksand to the north-west and connects with Siljanleden.  It's hard to give an exact estimate of how far it is from Mockfjärd to either Leksand to the north or where it meets up Siljanleden to the north-west.  For one, I'm not exactly sure where Siljanleden begins*, and due to the variety this area has to offer, hikers can pick and choose many different paths to either this next trail or to center city Leksand.

*Update 14/05/2015:  I have since bought a better map of the area for my next section hike, and turns out that Siljanleden leads right into Leksand, so you can pick it up at various points in this area.  The path I took north before turning east to Leksand actually intersects with Siljanleden at the Granberg campground, where I made camp at a good trail shelter (see:below).*

But roughly from Mockfjärd to where the above map shows Siljanleden marked in the north-west is about 50-55km, and that's if you walk a more "direct" route.  The path I chose to take was a more direct route north towards Leksand--because I am a section hiker and could catch a train there--and was roughly 45km.  So this report will be on this route rather than the official E1 trail, though there were times that I did follow the E1.  But really the path to Leksand, however one chooses to hike, will be a mix-up/mishmash of various different trails, roads, and even small highways.

Traveling southbound, the E1 continues on to the Ludvika/Smedjebacken area, and you can read my report on that stage here.  Traveling northbound, the trail goes on to Siljanleden (which eventually goes to the city of Mora), and you can check out my report on this section here. 

*Update 25/02/2017: For anyone doing a long section hike or a thru hike and is feeling ambitious, you may want to consider hiking over to Bjursås from Leksand and checking out a lovely little 35km looping trail called Vildmarksleden. You can hike there following various trails and dirt roads in the area, or take a public transportation there and hike back, or even hike there and back to the E1 again--there are lots of optionsHere is my trail guide on this loop.*

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on to the guide!

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Leaving Mockfjärd going northbound, there is already a foreshadowing of things to come with all the different trails converging just outside of town at the Grådbodarna campsite.  Even getting to this campsite you have a variety of options.  As I did on the section before, I did my best to stick to what appeared to be the official E1 trail for most of the short (5-6km) hike to this campsite, but this would soon change the next day.  

It's a great place to spend the night, with a nice view, a trail shelter, a small well for good/clean water (look about 50m east of the shelter past the first/closest cottage), benches, and a big firepit.  The shelter is meant more for sitting than sleeping, as a table is built into the middle of it, so I pitched my tent just outside where there is plenty of space to set up your own shelter.  Though because this is an exposed clearing, expect more wind, of course.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Smedjebacken/Ludvia to Mockfjärd

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The official Swedish E1 information website lists this section as part of both Sméleden and Gagnefs Pasture Paths trail systems, and navigating this roughly 60km from one town to the next is a bit of a complicated affair full of many different alternatives, short cuts, side trails, etc. that can all make things challenging for hikers.  There is one part of this section that I would recommend skipping (more on this soon), but I would definitely not skip ahead too far, as I found much of this stage quite a pleasant hike.  The bigger issue with skipping ahead here is missing the next section of trails that goes from Mockfjärd to Leksand, which is an excellent section that I would strongly suggest not skipping or missing out on.

First let's start with maps.  I strongly suggest that anyone traveling the E1 here to buy a good map of this neck of the woods, such as the Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan 638 for the Borlänge area (Google it and buy it from your book/map shop of choice).  Much like my last report, I was unable to find much information or maps online, and after traveling through this area I can say that having good map and compass skills is essential.  You'll need to rely on a good map and compass both getting through this section, and may at times (like it or not!) need to go off-trail and/or bushwhack.  As I also found out after exploring this area myself, even the good map I had was not entirely accurate.

But please don't get discouraged by all this, and keep in mind the context of the area--while it is a bit isolated, this area does have back roads, villages, and other small havens of civilization around.  The small city of Ludvika, the town of Smedjebacken, and the small town (or large village?) of Mockfjärd at each end of this section of the E1 have useful things for backpackers like restaurants, shops, and such.  Perhaps more importantly is that there are connections to local public transportation in Smedjebacken and Ludvika that can (and in my opinion should) be taken advantage of.

Traveling southbound, the E1 continues on to Björsjö, and you can read my report on that stage here.  Traveling northbound, the trail goes on to the small city of Leksand and/or the Leksand area trail system, and you check out my report on this section here.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!

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Where to begin with this one?  This was a very memorable section hike for a number of reasons.  It spanned 4 days and overall was an awesome experience, however there were some challenges I had to deal with on the first day of this trip that had me kinda feeling like this was a doomed voyage with what I had to endure.   Yet at first things were great soon after I got off the train in Ludvika, and went into town to buy dinner while I waited for a bus that would take me north to the trail.  



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back to Back, Episode 5

Just a quick announcement that another part of my video series is up on Youtube: Back to Back, Episode 5: Section Hiking vs. Thru-Hiking.  This episode features Chad AKA Stick of Stick's Blog.  He's one of my favorite backpacking bloggers and Youtubers, and has a lot of great contributions, so be sure to check out him out if you haven't already.  I have nothing but nice things to say about the guy, both his content and as a person he's always been very friendly and helpful in our interactions.

Here is Part 1, where I set things up and ask Stick some questions:


And here's Part 2, where Chad responds:


I really enjoyed Chad's perspective on the topic and his answers to my questions, so rather than say too much here, I plan on doing another part to this episode where I reply to him and his points.  Overall I really appreciated his discussion, and was flattered by his kind words.  So thanks again Chad, and Part 3 I will try and get up sometime soon.

That's all for now, short and sweet.  Go watch the videos and feel free to join the discussion--in the comments here, on Youtube, and I like Chad's suggestion about even making a video reply, why not?

Peace out! 

Update 28/04/2015 - Just uploaded Part 3, check it out:

 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

More Reflections on a DIY / MYOG Synthetic Overbag v2.0: the Saco Verde

*Note:  I have since field tested El Saco Verde and given a lot more thought to the design of this project.  Please see updates below.

Last year I wrote about and showed some pictures off of a somewhat unique/specialized DIY/MYOG project for an avid Ultralight backpacker, which is my version of a Climashield APEX sleeping bag that I named Saco Rojo.  I was and still am quite happy with the way it came out, however being the obsessive backpacker that I am, I thought that there was still some room for improvement.  As noted in my previous reflections, I had always intended to make two of these sleeping bags--one for me and one for my wife.  So I already had another silk liner, as well as some more insulation (which I bought from Thru-Hiker), and also some more M90 for the top shell of the bag.

I first started my new modifications for this next bag by sewing up the silk liner by hand, turning it into a big tube rather than a sheet with a side-entry.  Then I cut off the top of the liner to create a top entry for this silk tube.  Next I did what I wish I would have done originally when making my first bag--though this is really knit-picky fine tuning, I admit, as the M90 fabric works quite well as a shell and is pretty damn light.  I ordered some ARGON 67 from Dutchware Gear in a lovely dark green.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Björsjö to Smedjebacken

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The official Swedish E1 information website lists this bit of trail as part of Sméleden trail, and it is a short yet tricky hike at roughly 15km.  There is a road that runs fairly perpendicular to where the trail is supposed to be.  I would recommend skipping this bit of E1 for inexperienced backpackers and/or section hikers that are under time constraints.  One easy way to do that is to follow the small highway that connects Björsjö to Smedjebacken.  More on this later.

First let's start with maps.  I strongly suggest that anyone traveling the E1 here to buy a good map of this neck of the woods, such as the Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan 628 for the Ludvika area (Google it and buy it from your book/map shop of choice).  For a basic idea of the area this guide covers, here is a Google Maps page that shows you the route from the village of Björsjö to the small town of Smedjebacken if one were to strictly follow the asphalt road only.  

I was not able to find any maps of this trail online, though did find it mentioned on Smedjebacken's official website (in Swedish).  However, after attempting to hike this trail, it strikes me as though whoever wrote the general information on this site has not actually gone out and hiked the trail (at least recently).

Continuing southbound on the E1, you follow part of the Malingsbo-Klotenrundan looping trail, and you can read my guide for that section here.  Hiking northbound you continue on what is supposed to be Sméleden north towards/through Gyllbergen nature reserve, where the E1 changes trails to the Gagnefs Pasture Paths, and ends up in the small town of Mockfjärd.  You can read my report on this next northbound section here.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!

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Switching trails on the outskirts of Björsjö it became clear right away that this next section of trail was not as maintained as the last.  There where a few faint, old, weathered trail markers, but I still had to stop and search for the bridge that would take me over the river to the shelter marked on my map.  The bridge is past the small training grounds just past the road, and once I found it I again saw a few faint old markings--but past the bridge they disappeared entirely.  At least, I could not find any, so I just went to the somewhat dilapidated trail shelter for some lunch.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Kloten to Björsjö

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The official Swedish E1 information website lists this bit of trail as part of Malingsbo-Klotenrundan looping trail, and it is a short yet lovely hike at roughly 20km, depending on how you hike it.  There is a dirt road that runs fairly perpendicular to the marked trail, and this section is well marked and has some real golden high points for a woodland traveler--but also has some downsides as well.  I would recommend not skipping this bit of E1 for experienced backpackers or the rare E1 thru-hiker, however the end of this trail going northbound (in Björsjö) presents some challenges.  More on this later.

First let's start with maps.  I strongly suggest that anyone traveling the E1 buy a good map of this neck of the woods, such as the Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan 628 for the Ludvika area (Google it and buy it from your book/map shop of choice).  For a basic idea of the area this guide covers, here is a Google Maps page that shows you the route from the village of Kloten to the village of Björsjö if one were to strictly follow the dirt road only.  I was also able to dig up what looks like a decent if not basic map (in Swedish, but fairly easy to figure out) after some Googling, which you can check out here.

Going southbound on the E1, you reach the beginning of Bergslagsleden, and here you can read my guide on the first two stages of this longer trail.  Going northbound, the Sméleden "trail" (if you can call it a marked trail, I am not so sure) supposedly goes from Björsjö to the small town of Smedjebacken, and you can read my report on this section here.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!

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Hiking this trail was generally very pleasant, although how things ended and the next section of the E1 presented some challenges and will certainly complicate things, at least how the conditions are at the moment.  I do intend on writing an email to the tourist offices of Smedjebacken shortly after writing this and the next trail guide.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cesar's Complete Guide to Bergslagsleden


Introduction


Bergslagsleden is the longest stand alone trail that is a part of the Swedish E1 trail system, and spans 280km.  It is a wonderful trail, one of my all time favorites in fact, so after finishing it I decided to write up a more detailed trail guide specifically for this trail.  It would be a great trail to do a short thru-hike of all on its own, and I plan to do this in the future.  

However if you would like to read more about the E1 trails and how Bergslagsleden fits into the E1, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to my other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.   

Bergslagsleden has its endpoint in the south at the campground Stenkällegården, and the endpoint in the north is the village of Kloten.  For more general information about the trail in English, Swedish, and German, here is a link to the official trail guide.  The trail is divided into 17 stages, and the official site has PDF informational maps available to download free of charge.   


Below I will provide links to each of my 6 trip reports for the section hikes I did to complete this trail, which can also be found in my E1 trail guide.  Full disclosure: roughly two thirds of stage 15 was skipped due to illness, all of stage 6 was skipped due to excessive snow, roughly two thirds of stage 1 was skipped also due to snow, and a few stages got a few kms trimmed off due to public transportation.  After these links is a brief epilogue on my final thoughts on the trail, how I would plan a thru-hike of the trail in the future, and other tips and observations from the trail.


The Trail Guides

--Part 1 (79km), Karlsborg - Laxå (hiked in September 2014)

--Part 2 (58km), Laxå - Leken (hiked in October 2014)

--Part 3 (49km), Leken - Mogetorp (hiked in November 2014)

--Part 4 (47km), Mogetorp - Uskavi (hiked in January 2015)

--Part 5 (46km + 6km), Uskavi/Lindesberg - Stjärnfors/Kopparberg (hiked in February 2015)


--Part 6 (38km), Kopparberg - Kloten (hiked in April 2015) 


Epilogue

As I've already made clear in the reports themselves, I really enjoyed this trail as a whole.  However I feel like I could improve on my experience of this trail significantly next time I hike it.  The first thing that I would do differently is to hike it in the summer or perhaps late spring.  There are areas on the trail that get a lot of snow, which makes things more challenging, as a few of my reports pointed out.  Another issue is fog and mist during the autumn months, which while they can be quite beautiful, ruined a lot of good views for me during a few trips.  

It's only 280km total, which I think I would have no problems doing a thru-hike of in about two weeks or a bit less.  Though I wouldn't want to go on a thru-hike of this trail for less than two weeks so that I would have time for a few zero days and/or exploring of side trials and other cool sights to be found on or slightly off trail.  I've already given a fair amount of thought of how a thru-hike of this trail might be planned, so here is how I'd try and do it:

*At the height of summer, around July-August, I'd pack up my summer gear (around 2-3kg base weight) and 5 days of food.  Then I'd catch a train to Kopparberg, hike west from town, find the trail, and start hiking southbound.

*I'd resupply another 3 days of food in Nora and continue hiking southbound.  

*At the E18 highway at Leken, I'd take a bus west to the town of Karlskoga (resupplying as needed), where I'd then pick up the side trail Tiosjöarsleden.  Following this side trail south-west, I'd make my way back to Bergslagsleden and continue southbound.

*After finishing stage 14, I'd hike or hitchhike to Laxå to resupply as needed, and then return to the trail to continue southbound.

*Finally after finishing the trail at the end of stage 17, I would continue hiking southbound on Västra Vätterleden, resupplying as needed on the way in Karlsborg, and ending the trip in Hjo, which is a lovely little town on the shores of the massive lake Vättern.

Yup.  Something like that, and if I'm lucky sometime soon.

In general the trail is very well maintained, there are plenty of trail shelters and places to fill up on tap water; yet at many parts of the trail you feel pretty isolated and cut off from civilization, a more raw and wild terrain.  I can't comment much on bugs and other pests, as my travels on this trail were not during high bug season--but even during the fall and early spring, there were a fair amount of bugs out.

That's all I can think of adding to this trail guide at the moment, but surely in the future I will give updates and additions.  Until then, and as always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback. 

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 6

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This is Part 6 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.  And you can find the official trail website here if you haven't already.

This report covers stages 2-1, or from roughly the town of Kopparberg to the end/start point of the trail in the village of Kloten.  These stages combined are only 38km.

Stage 2 goes right past/through Kopparberg to the west, and the town offers limited but good resources for hikers, such as restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.  Kloten has a hostel and is on the 233 highway, but that's about it.  North of Kloten the closest town is Smedjebacken, which is roughly 35km away.  However there are some issues with the E1 trail that I will address in a trail guide to come, but in short it is not exactly easy, straightforward, or perhaps entirely pleasant getting to Smedjebacken.

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 4-3 here.  Hiking northbound you continue onto two different trails going north towards Smedjebacken, and you can read my report on the first trail from Kloten to Björsjö here.

Now on with the show!

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I arrived by train once again to the town of Kopparberg in early April.  The weather was nice--sunny and about 7C during the day--and I was looking forward to finishing up Bergslagsleden on this trip.  I gave snow little thought, because I thought that most of it would be gone.  Not all of it, of course, and I saw plenty of patches of snow in the woods on the train ride up.  But surely there wouldn't be any knee-high snow on the trail or waist-high snow drifts.  As you can probably guess, I was of course very wrong.  So snow would once again pose a big hindrance to my travels, but in the end I didn't allow it to slow me down.  More on this later.

To find the trail from Kopparberg there are many options, as it's fairly close to town.  You could even hike south down the highway that goes through town and go to the very beginning of stage 2 (if you're going northbound), or just pick a dirt road just outside of the tiny town center and walk west, which is what I did.  Shortly after arriving, I was back on the trail again, and very much enjoyed the path that goes past the big lake Ljusnaren.  The trail passes a beach and swimming area, a few dirt roads, but is mostly nice, woodsy trail until it reaches the shelter on the shores of lake Olovsjön.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 5

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This is Part 5 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.  And you can find the official trail website here if you haven't already.

This report covers stages 4-3, or from roughly the town of Lindesberg to the town of Kopparberg.  These stages are somewhat longer at 23km each.
The southern end of stage 4 is somewhat close (~12km) to the town of Lindesberg, and is also close (~2km) to the 50 highway to the east, which has daily bus connections (e.g. Fanthyttan bus stop nearby).  The end/start point of the Stjärnfors area at the northern part of stage 3 is about 6km from Kopparberg, but in stage 2 the trail goes right past/through this small town as well.  Both Lindesberg and Kopparberg offer limited but good resources for hikers, such as restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.  But do note that Kopparberg is smaller than Lindesberg, and will have less options and such.

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 7-5 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my guide on the last two stages here.

Now on with the show!

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This was one of my more memorable and challenging hikes, but that has a lot to do with the seasonal conditions.  This section hike was in end of February of 2015, and presented some unique challenges that I think I ought to describe first before getting to the rest of the report.  In doing preparations for this trip, I did as much research as I could think of beforehand.  I checked the weather reports several times a day a week before the trip, I called and spoke to some locals (such as the director of a cross-country ski club in the area), and even looked at some webcams in or around the area.  I did all this because of the snow.  As I have spoken about in some of my Youtube videos, this year has been a rather warm winter here in Sweden.  2014 was the warmest year on record for Sweden, actually.

I don't own snow shoes or skis, and didn't want to buy them just for this trip (though in the future I am strongly considering it, but don't want to rush things).  And in many parts of southern Sweden, the snow had long since melted away by the middle of February.  Plus all my research suggested that there wouldn't be that much snow around a significant part of the trail... however I knew going into this trip that some parts of the trail, due to elevation in particular, was going to have snow.  In some cases, lots of snow.  


Friday, February 20, 2015

Cesar's Shelter Flow Chart

I've been meaning to make a flow chart like this for a while now, but never got around to it until today.  With all the different shelters that I have owned and written about on here, I get a fair amount of questions related to shelters.  Why I have several, which one is best for what, how do you pick a shelter, etc.  So now I have this handy little flow chart to show people.  Feel free to use/share it if you think it is helpful, and as always feedback is always encouraged.

So that's about it, I'll keep it short and sweet and let the chart speak for itself:

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 4

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This is Part 4 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.  And you can find the official trail website here if you haven't already.

This report covers stages 7-5, or from Mogetorp to Uskavi/Lindesberg.  This will be a unique report in that there I hiked quite a lot of off-trail and/or alternative routes in these stages, perhaps the most dramatic example was skipping stage 6 entirely--more on this later.

The Mogetorp area is on the 50/68 highway and has daily bus connections to the city of Örebro in the south and the town of Nora in the north.  There is also a restaurant and hotel near the bus stop.  The Uskavi area is somewhat close (~12km) to the town of Lindesberg, and is also close (~2km) to the 50 highway to the east, which has daily bus connections (e.g. Fanthyttan bus stop nearby) going north to the town of Kopparberg or south to Lindesberg if you don't want to hike all the way there.  The trail also passes close to the quaint town of Nora, which is on the western shores of the big and aptly named lake Norasjön.  Both Nora and Lindesberg offer basic but good resources for hikers, such as cafés, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 11-8 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my report on stages 4-3 here.

Now on with the show!

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After weeks of planning and keeping a close eye on the weather, things did not go as planned for this section hike--but my friend Tomas and I still had a great and very memorable trip.  Rather than one day of light snow and two days of clear skies and sun, with low temps going down to around -6C to -8C, instead we got lots and lots of snow, hardly any sun, and low temps only around -3C.  When I mean lots of snow, I mean roughly 50cm of snow total--and that's on top of snow and ice that was already there beforehand.  It made for an interesting if not difficult set of conditions for hiking through the woods.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Winter Section Hike Gear Breakdown

*Update 02/02/2015: I have since come back from my section hike with the gear described below.  I will add some additional notes such to this post and give some additional thoughts below.

In the past I have done several gear list breakdowns by season, and I have been itching to do another one for this winter's kit.  However it has been a warmer winter than usual, plus I was forced to push back my January section hike to the end of the month, so I had not finalized my gear until recently.  Early spring is often nearly or just as cold as winter here--especially further up north, where I will be continuing my E1 hike--so this set up should still get put to good use in spite of the warm start of the year.  

As usual, I will note that this gear list (as well as any other gear list of mine) is not static or set in stone.  I always keep a keen eye on weather reports, which of course can have a big impact on what I may or may not take with me.  This particular section hike the estimated low temperatures were supposed to be around -6 to -8 C (21 to 17 F), but this of course can change significantly (and did!).  In the end the lows only got down to around -3C, most of the time temps hovered around 0C, and rather than one day of snow flurries and two days of sun there was steady snowfall nearly the entire trip.  There was at least 50cm more snow by the time we left than when we started the trip.

Please note that I have rounded to the nearest 5 grams to make math easier and have nice, round numbers--just a personal preference now after creating so many gear lists.

First, here is all the base gear all packed up in my pack of choice, a Zpacks Arc Blast 52 with two hip belt pockets.